Book Censorship in Australia

When book censorship in Australia was at it's peak, during the 1930s, 40s and 50s; over 5,000 titles were forbidden from being imported into the country.

This list of supposedly dangerous books included such famous titles as:
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence - Reportedly it was banned due to comments made by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, when he stated that it was not a book that he wanted his wife to read.
  • The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal - This novel of a young man discovering his homosexuality, written in the late 1940s when Vidal was only in his early twenties, was certainly controversial in the author's home nation, but was was banned altogether in Australia for almost twenty years until 1967.

Portnoy's Complaint

In 1969, Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth was designated a prohibited import in Australia by the Federal Custom Minister, Senator Malcolm Scott. Over the following few years, the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and WA governments prosecuted numerous local publishers or retailers that attempted to supply the book. In one example, during 1971, Penguin Books were taken to court by the police for publishing the book; a prosecution that, after two hung juries, was eventually unsuccessful. During the trial, the article clerk for the team of lawyers defending Penguin books was a young David Marr, who later described the case as the end of widespread book censorship in Australia.

Recent Examples of Books Censorship

Over the last few years the only justifiable excuse that has emerged for the banning of books in Australia has been the prevention of terrorism. Former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's department submitted seven books to the Classification Review Board in 2006, with two of them being refused classification. Ruddock explained on the ABC Radio National AM news programme at the time that he was attempting to control books that would either glorify or incite acts of violence. Numerous political commentators felt that Ruddock at the time was also make veiled threats about changing the system under which books are banned in order to enlarge his powers. Of course, any such plans by the former Attorney-General were curtailed following the Coalition's Federal Election defeat in November 2007.

Works Cited

  • Banned books in Australia: from moral crusaders to national security - ABC Radio National - Book Show - 24-August-2007. Hosted by Michelle Rayner. Guests: Nicole Moore, Ben Saul, Frank Moorehouse.
  • Bryson, Bill. Down Under. Chapter Eight. 2000. Published by Black Swan
  • Marr, David. ABC Fora. How To Write Long-Form Investigative Journalism.
  • Australian Censorship Regimes: Landmarks.